Tuesday 20 March 2018

Martin O’Neill refutes Tardelli claim that Westwood sought to leave Sunderland

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill has refuted claims made by Marco Tardelli that Irish goalkeeper Kieren Westwood tried to leave the Black Cats during the January transfer window.

Keiren Westwood did not play against Poland on Wednesday after losing his place to Millwall's David Forde with manager Giovanni Trapattoni citing Westwood's lack of club football as the reason for his exclusion, which is likely to continue for next month's World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.

Trapattoni revealed he had told Westwood he may have to leave Sunderland to regain his place, and assistant Marco Tardelli suggested he had tried to do so during last month's transfer window.

However, O'Neill said: "No, he didn't ask to leave. He was asking was there a possibility - certainly his agent was asking about the possibility of going on loan.

"In principle, I don't have a really serious problem about players going out on loan, particularly if they go and play.

"For an outfield player, it might be easier to move things around, but for a goalkeeper...

"The teams who asked for him wanted him not just for the month, but they wanted him for a sizeable time, and of course we have only got one other goalkeeper.

"While it's unfortunate for Keiren at the moment, I think you would admit Simon Mignolet is playing brilliantly for us.

"It was news to me that he wanted to leave on a permanent basis. When the season ends, we can always have a look at things.

"But I also understand Keiren's position. He's a talented goalkeeper and really wants to play in someone's first team."

Irish team mate James McClean, who damaged an ankle in his country's 2-0 friendly victory over Poland, is unavailable for the arrival of Arsenal to the Stadium of Light tomorrow.

Meanwhile, O’Neill revealed he is wary of the threat posed by Jack Wilshere ahead of tomorrow’s game and believes he could be the next Liam Brady.

"He's come on in leaps and bounds. He's come back from the injury and he's certainly added another dimension to his game.

"He's got that little burst of pace which kind of reminds me of Liam Brady - and if he ends up having the same career as Liam Brady, he will be pretty sensational."

Brady, of course, was responsible for Wilshere's early education in the game in his role as Arsenal's head of youth development, and manager Arsene Wenger will be thrilled if he matches the achievements of the former Republic of Ireland international, who graced the turf at Highbury for seven years before heading for Italy and Juventus.

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